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How Sweep It Is

Posted By Brian Joyce On Apr 9 2012 @ 7:42 pm In Tampa Bay Devil Rays | No Comments

The Tampa Bay Rays are off to a 3-0 start for the first time since 2002 after sweeping the New York Yankees over the weekend. The Yankees start the season 0-3 for the first time since 1998, and we all know how that season ended. The 1998 Yankees were one of the best teams ever assembled. It’s a little early to start celebrating, but if you’re Tampa Bay you have to be pleased with this sweep.

Last year Tampa Bay started the year 0-6 and looked lifeless in doing so. Remember, last year during that dreadful start, the Rays never had a lead through their first six games. This season, to start the year, the Rays’ pitching staff during this three game sweep, held the Yankees 5 for 25 with runners in scoring position. That is where the Yankees usually excel but not this past weekend. In those clutch situations the Yankee hitters were stymied by the Tampa Bay pitching staff.

Carlos Pena returned to the Rays with a bang. Pena’s first at bat of the year, was a grand slam off of Yankees’ ace C.C. Sabathia, and that set the tempo for the Rays all weekend. In the three games, Pena went 6 for 12 with two homers and 7 RBI, including the game winning RBI off of Yankees closer Mariano Rivera on Opening Day. That was the first time in seven years Rivera coughed up a save against Tampa Bay. Fernando Rodney (signed as a free agent during the winter) pitched a scoreless ninth to earn the win. Rodney played a big role this past weekend with his new team. He had two saves to go along with that victory. In three appearances, Rodney has not allowed a runner to reach base, retiring all five hitters he has faced. Going into this season, Rodney has 87 career saves, including a career high of thirty seven with the Tigers in 2009. He gives the Rays some much needed depth in the bullpen, especially with verteran righty Kyle Farnsworth (25 saves last year) out for at least another month with a bad elbow.

Rays manager Joe Maddon will not commit to Rodney as his closer, saying “it’s based on who is available and who presents the best matchup.” So far that guy in the ninth inning has been Rodney and he has not disappointed.

Saturday night the Rays had a rude greeting for Hiroki Kuroda to the American League East.  Kuroda signed a 1 year deal worth 10 million to play for the Yankees this year, and be their number two starter. Kuroda in his 4 years with the Dodgers has a career record of five games under .500 going into this year. He had issues with command, walking four and lasted only into the sixth inning. Overall, it was a poor outing for the veteran who allowed twelve base runners, and fell behind just about every hitter he faced. That is a recipe for disaster for a pitcher.

In all three games the Rays jumped on the Yankees, outscoring them 7-0 in the first inning. On Sunday it was all about the reigning Rookie of the Year in the American League Jeremy Hellickson, who looks about eighteen, but has the composure of a seasoned veteran. Hellickson turned twenty five on Easter Sunday and completed the sweep of the Yankees with a gem. He scattered three hits (all of them were doubles) and kept the Yankees off balance all afternoon. As he got stronger, he retired the Yankees in order in the seventh and eighth innings, and got the first two batters in the ninth (Texeira and Rodriguez) before walking Nick Swisher and his afternoon was complete. Great way to celebrate his birthday, but also a great weekend for the Rays and what a way to start a season.






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